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Use of 3-D Printers to Design, Build, and Test a Quadcopter Drone

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Innovations in Advanced Fabrication Technologies

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R. Radharamanan Mercer University

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Dr. R. Radharamanan is currently working as Professor of Industrial Engineering and Director of Mercer Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (MCIE) at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia. He has forty two years of teaching, research, and consulting experiences. His previous administrative experiences include: President of International Society for Productivity Enhancement (ISPE), Acting Director of Industrial Engineering as well as Director of Advanced Manufacturing Center at Marquette University, and Research Director of CAM and Robotics Center at San Diego State University. His primary research and teaching interests are in the areas of manufacturing systems, additive manufacturing, rapid prototyping, robotics and automation, innovation and entrepreneurship, quality engineering, and product and process development. He has organized and chaired five international conferences, co-chaired two, and organized and chaired three regional conferences. He has received two teaching awards, several research and service awards in the United States and in Brazil. His present and past professional affiliations include ASEE, IIE, ASQ, SME, ASME, and ISPE.

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The 3D printers are capable of producing three-dimensional solid objects drawn in 3D software through an additive process, wherein the feedstock is applied layer by layer to form the three-dimensional object. The drones are instruments controlled from a distance by electronic and computational mechanisms. Many of them seem aero-modeling toys or even remote control helicopters, but the difference is in the technology employed, usually much more complex than mere toys. Its utilities go beyond conventional, they can be used either for leisure, commercial or military work. This paper presents the use of 3D printers to design, build, test, and fly a quadcopter drone. Through this hands-on project, the students were trained in two new and emerging manufacturing technologies: 3D printing and rapid prototyping as well as drone technology.

Two software packages, 123D Design and MeshMixer, were used to design the body, arms, and feet of the drone. Two different materials were used: ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), a common thermoplastic polymer, very rigid and light, with a good balance of strength and flexibility; and PLA (Polylactic acid), a biodegradable thermoplastic polyester, more efficient in certain types of molding than the ABS, because it tends to deform less after the application and releases less smoke upon reaching its melting point.

The drone parts were printed using two 3D printers: The MakerBot Replicator 2X was used to print the arms using ABS material and the Creator Pro printed the body and feet using PLA material. The printed parts were also tested for dimensional accuracy and surface roughness. The electronic parts consisted of one flight control, four electronic speed controllers, one transmitter, one receiver, four motors, four propellers, and one GPS. The 3D printed parts and the electronic components were assembled to make the prototype of the quadcopter drone. Some of the difficulties encountered include assembly errors, sizing issues, and software incompatibility. Flight tests were performed and the errors identified and corrected. The results of the flying quadcopter drone designed, built, and tested are presented and discussed.

Radharamanan, R. (2016, June), Use of 3-D Printers to Design, Build, and Test a Quadcopter Drone Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27111

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